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Semolina Gnocchi (Gnocchi Alla Romana)
In Rome, Thursdays are the day when many restaurants and home cooks serve gnocchi in this style, a local specialty. The traditional presentation is to layer the circles of pasta in overlapping rings into a dome shape. Here, they are in a single layer for better browning. In Sardinia, semolina gnocchi are known as pillas and are sauced with meat ragu and grated pecorino Sardo and browned in the oven.
- 3 1/2 cups (825 ml) whole milk
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/2 pound (225 g) semolina
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 2 egg yolks
- 2 ounces (55 g), or about 3⁄4 cup, grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese or Grana Padano cheese, plus extra for sprinkling on top
- 6 tablespoons (85 g) unsalted butter, softened
SPECIAL EQUIPMENT: 2-inch (5-cm) round cookie cutter; 2-quart (1.9-L) shallow baking dish or gratin dish
YIELD: about forty 2-inch (5-cm) gnocchi, serves 6 to 8
1. Bring milk with salt and nutmeg to a simmer in a 2- to 3-quart (1.9- to 2.8-L) heavy saucepan (not aluminum, which will discolor the mix) over moderately low heat. Add semolina in a slow stream while constantly stirring to prevent lumps.
2. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon or a heavy whisk until the mixture begins to pull away from the sides of the pan, about 5 minutes (mixture will be very stiff).
3. Remove from heat, cool slightly, then beat in eggs and yolks. Beat in 1/2 cup (50 g) of the cheese and 3 tablespoons (45 g) of the butter, and stir or whisk until mixture is smooth.
4. Spread gnocchi mixture into a 1/2-inch (1-cm)-thick slab on an oiled or parchment paper-lined baking sheet using a lightly oiled silicone spatula. Press plastic wrap or parchment paper over top and smooth the top with the palms of your hands. Chill until cold and firm, about 1 hour. This amount fills a 10 x 15- inch (25 x 38-cm) jelly-roll pan perfectly.
5. Preheat the oven to 450ºF (230ºC, or gas mark 8). Rub a medium shallow baking dish (or a French gratin dish) with 1 tablespoon (15 g) of butter.
6. Have ready a bowl of cold water. Cut out "coins" from gnocchi mixture using a 2-inch (5-cm) ridged or plain round cookie cutter. Rinse the cutter in water after each cut. Reserve the scraps. At the end, gather all the scraps together and push them together to form another small 1/2-inch (1-cm)-thick slab and cut out more coins.
7. Gently transfer the coins (they will be soft) to the baking dish, overlapping them slightly. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and dot with the remaining butter. (You may cover and refrigerate the gnocchi up to 2 days before baking. Allow 40 minutes for baking.)
8. Bake the gnocchi in the upper third of the oven 25 minutes, or until the gnocchi are slightly puffed and lightly browned. If desired, place under a preheated broiler for 2 minutes to brown the top, standing by to make sure the tops don't burn. Let the gnocchi stand 5 minutes to firm up before serving.